PHOENIX, Arizona – Every golf course construction and renovation project comes with its own set of challenges and rewards, says PTI Golf principal Kip Wolfe. “And this one at the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club certainly had some of both,” he added.
The project Wolfe was referring to was the renovation of the Adobe Course at the famed 36-hole Arizona Biltmore Golf Club in Phoenix that took place over an extremely hot summer and fall. Working with the Tom Lehman Design Group and other contractors, PTI was heavily involved in the renovation, which ended with the name of the course changing to The Estates Course.
In rebranding to the Estates Course, the owners of the Arizona Biltmore Golf Club – JDM Partners – were paying homage to the iconic Estates neighborhood that surrounds the 95-year-old golf course. Some of the Phoenix area’s most impressive homes can be found in this neighborhood.
It was that aspect, however, that created the biggest challenge for PTI and the other companies working on the project.
“The major challenge was the space restriction. We were landlocked on all sides,” said Wolfe. “The entire property is surrounded by estate homes. There was one vacant lot that we all worked out of. It took a great deal of coordination so we all weren’t stepping on each other’s work as we progressed.”
To coordinate the various companies working on the project along with PTI – irrigation, cart path constructors, landscaping, etc. – JDM brought in ETHOS Club and Leisure, headed by Mark Woodward.
“With many of the holes being contiguous to each other, choreographing the workers was a challenge,” said Woodward. “The entities were working around each other doing the two-step, trying not to get in each other’s way. It was a unique project.”
ETHOS held weekly meetings with everyone to coordinate activities and make sure each company knew what the others were doing.
“All in all it worked out well,” said Wolfe. “As much as JDM has trust in our company, they needed a liaison to make sure all the contractors worked together. We were the main contractor, but ETHOS kept everybody in coordination, making sure the project moved forward and on budget for the owners while at the same time covering all our tracks from behind.”
Chris Brands was the Lehman Design Group’s main architect on the project. PTI worked with Brands in doing all the shaping and feature work, drainage, bunker construction, greens complexes and tees.
“PTI was just tremendous to work with,” said Brands. “Everything we asked for they tried to figure out how to do for us. It was a good team project. The hardest thing was putting people in the right places so they weren’t stepping on each other. That might have been our biggest success.”
Most involved will argue that the golf course renovation itself was a success. Along with changes in routing, shaping and bunkering, a state-of-the-art irrigation system was installed, and hundreds of new trees were added, all while protecting valuable sight lines for the homeowners.
“Our challenge was to keep the character of a course that had been very popular over the years, while doing a couple of things to make it even more appealing,” said Brands. “We tweaked a few angles and provided a few more options off the tees and around the greens.”
Much of the change dealt with the greens complexes, which have TifEagle grass. Drought-tolerant TifTuf was used on the rest of the course.
“The greens are the best defense of the golf course,” said Wolfe. “We shaped the greens in a way where you have a lot of closely mown fall off areas, allowing for various options: putting, chipping, lob shots.
“Bunkers are also key on this course. A lot of consideration was given to bunkering for strategy and hole alignment. We used Capillary Concrete bunker liner in the bunkers, and shipped in white USGA sand out of California, which provides a really nice visual contrast. This is not a long course (6,669 yards from the tips), but it will test every club in your bag.”
Woodward, who represented the owners’ interests in the project, was thrilled with the outcome.
“Kip and PTI are the best,” he said. “They did a great job moving things along and working with the other contractors. I think the world of them.”